There are few places in the world which come straight from your dreams.
Craving sun? Check
Craving solitude? Check
Craving food that makes your heart smile? Check
How about warm water to splash around in in a UNESCO protected grotto, and an exploding volcano to watch at night to boot? Well, that wasn’t actually on my list but it was a welcome find.
This place exists people, and it’s called Panarea; a remote Italian island as part of the Aeolian Islands off Sicily.
A two hour ferry ride from the Sicilian coast, it’s this little slice of heaven which only populates around 300 people year-round with the exception of summer when it nicely swells with tourists.
Once docked, a sleepy ride in one of the many golf carts up the narrow whitewashed walls, past pink glowing Bouganvillea and bright blue painted doors brings you to Hotel Girasole (meaning Sunflower).
This is the family business of Rita and her mother, who have lived here all their lives after their extended families emigrated as far as Leichhardt in Australia after World War 2.
A tiered layout of rooms and balconies each boast beautifully airy, clean, cool, escapes to properly make you feel at ease and on holidays before you’ve even bounced on the bed.
Little touches make this place so darned relaxing, like just the right light, soft cotton sheets to help those restful siestas, or a prettily arched windowsill that you’re simply meant to lean out of to take in the view.
And what a view. Did I mention the view? Look at this:
Yep, this is Paradise people, and get excited cos it’s real.
Best of all, Paradise has it’s real-life, non-winged angels. Rita and her family provide the warmest, most lovely stay you could hope for. Always ready with a smile and genuine concern for your stay (not that practiced, cold, efficient thing some people go to study to learn in hospitality school), this is the real thing; a slow, relaxed, love of life that is seriously infectious.
For breakfast, try the full menu including sun warmed tomatoes on bruschetta and a crisp espresso, and don’t miss the daily torta cooked by Nonna.
After breakfast, stroll past the sun-warmed jasmine to the sea where you can either rent a boat or just paddle out to UNESCO protected grottos whose ancient inhabitant’s village can still be explored.
At night, head into town to Francesco’s which is the best local food going around with local seafood dishes such as fresh pistachio-encrusted swordfish, or tasty pasta disgraziata, all washed down with a generous glass of sweet, local spirit Malvasia.
Afterwards, if you can bear the exorbitant cocktail prices, Banacalii warms up a pretty good dancefloor until late, where mums, dads, grandmas, kids and everyone in between lets loose to the latest Euro tracks while looking on at Stromboli volcano exploding on the horizon.
Have we hooked you yet? You should go.
Book your stay with Rita now:
Hotel Girasole address: Via Drauth 45 | 98050 Panarea (Isole Eolie)
Telephone: +39 328 8618595